Encyclopaedia of Birdcare
Attracting Particular BirdsBy means of such methods as feeding birds, providing nest boxes and gardening for birds, a wide range of species can be attracted. If it is desired to persuade particular types of birds to visit a garden, specific measures can be taken to cater for the ones concerned. Some of these ideas are mentioned here:
- Doves and pigeons. These like to feed on the ground, but some will visit bird tables. They enjoy grain-based foods like bread and cake, seed and vegetables. Collared Doves favour conifers for nesting.
- Dunnocks. Rather shy and inconspicuous, they tend to ignore bird tables and feeders, picking up small items from the ground beneath, such as crumbs of bread, specks of fat and small types of seed.
- Finches and buntings. These seed eaters vary somewhat in their feeding methods, with Chaffinches preferring the ground but also using bird tables, Greenfinches accepting food almost anywhere including hanging feeders, and Siskins favouring suspended items, especially peanuts in red nylon bags. seed and grain-based foods such as bread and cake are generally attractive, but Bullfinches are unlikely to appear at feeding stations and Goldfinches are best enticed by a patch of seeding weeds like thistles or groundsel. Reed Buntings may come to grain-based foods on the ground.
- Robins. They will take almost any foods, but live foods such as mealworms are particular favourites, and bread is also much liked. Robins feed much on the ground but also use bird tables and seed trays and may even tackle hanging feeders. Except in hard winter weather, they are highly territorial, normally occurring singly or (during the breeding season) in pairs.
- Sparrows. Almost anything edible will interest House Sparrows, but especially grain-based foods such as bread and cake, seed of all types, plus peanuts. They feed happily on the ground, on bird tables and seed trays, and from hanging feeders. The uncommon and declining Tree Sparrow is rather shy but may visit more rural gardens.
- Starlings. Not always welcome, but entertaining to watch, they will tackle virtually any foods. Although most at home on the ground, they use bird tables and even hanging feeders. Flocks often visit gardens and swamp other species with their sheer numbers, but populations of Starlings are actually declining.
- Thrushes, including Blackbirds. Essentially ground feeders, they particularly favour lawns (for earthworms and other invertebrates), but take a wide variety of foods from bird tables and seed trays, though not hanging feeders. Blackbirds are very common in gardens, the declining Song Thrush less so, and the Mistle Thrush rather local in its occurrence. All thrushes love fruit, and in hard winter weather apples and pears (no matter how over- ripe) may attract Fieldfares and Redwings, winter visitors from Northern Europe, into the garden.
- Tits and Nuthatches. These agile birds prefer hanging feeders, but happily use bird tables and seed trays and will even feed on the ground if necessary. They particularly like peanuts, but fat, coconut (not the desiccated type, see harmful foods) and sunflower seed are also popular. Blue and Great Tits are very common in gardens, other tits much less so, and these two species are also the most likely occupants of hole-type nest boxes. The aggressive Nuthatch visits gardens with mature trees and feeds much like the tits.
- Warblers and flycatchers. These largely insectivorous birds are not generally common in gardens and are mostly summer visitors, but the Blackcap maintains a small British wintering population and may come for bread, fat, seed, peanuts and dried fruit, while in mature gardens the rather uncommon Spotted Flycatcher may be persuaded to breed in open-fronted nest boxes.
- Woodpeckers. Though readily visiting gardens with mature trees, they tend to be nervous and reluctant to use feeders and bird tables if these are close to houses. They enjoy peanuts, fat and fruit, and Green Woodpeckers will also extract invertebrates from the ground, especially on large lawns.
- Wrens. Although common in gardens and not at all shy, Wrens seldom visit feeders or bird tables, preferring to take natural foods in low cover and crannies. They will, however, accept fat, bread and seed, especially in hard winter weather, in which such tiny birds are particularly vulnerable.
Finally, there are two groups of larger birds, which may not be welcome in many gardens, but which are likely to visit anyway:
- Crows. Basically scavengers, they will eat almost anything edible, provided that they can reach it. Happiest on the ground, they will also use bird tables, but they are wary of coming close to houses, so placing food near windows will discourage them. feeders with restricted space may exclude such large birds. Rooks and Jackdaws are sociable birds but not important visitors to most gardens, and the woodland-based Jay is a rare treat to most people. Carrion Crows occur in the more open gardens, and can take many eggs and young from accessible nests, but in this respect the chief problem is the magpie.
- Gulls. Although most are still coastally-based, during the twentieth century gulls have developed the habit of living inland, at least during winter, while also increasing substantially in numbers generally. Black-headed and Herring Gulls, and to a lesser extent some other species, have become regular visitors to gardens where food is provided, especially during hard winter weather. They will eat virtually anything, and like crows often carry large pieces of food right away from the garden. Although they mainly feed on the ground (or on water), they often swoop down and snatch items of food without landing. They dislike enclosed spaces, and do not penetrate under trees, so some food is safe from them, but they rob birds which cannot immediately swallow their meals.
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